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Sat., Dec. 10, 2011, 1:45 p.m.

City union agrees to contract extension

(This post was updated at 4 p.m. Saturday.)

City Adminstrator Ted Danek said Friday that the membership of Local 270, the city's largest union, voted overwhelmingly this week to approve a three-year contract extension.

The contract currently expires at the end of 2012. The proposal will take the contract through 2015. The deal doesn't change employee benefits. It also doesn't change raises that already were in the contract for next year. But it does freeze wage levels in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Mayor-elect David Condon has criticized the proposal because it means he won't be part of shaping a contract. (A letter he signed along with four members of next year's City Council is printed in full at the end of the post.) Others argue that three years of no raises is a great deal that might be hard to achieve if Condon was at the table because unions might not be as willing to come to an agreement with a mayor who campaigned, in part, on how city workers were overcompensated.

City administrators also note that Condon will have plenty of other deals to work on. Outgoing Mayor Mary Verner hasn't come to agreements with other unions that have contracts that expire at the end of the year, including with the city's administrators union. So those agreements will be up to Condon to make.

The 270 contract, along with a nearly identical contract extension for the city's prosecutors union, will be considered by the City Council on Monday.

Monday's meeting is pretty full, but one big issue may fade without a decision. Council President Joe Shogan said it appears that the City Council doesn't have enough votes to make a change to the water rate structure. So that issue likely will wait until next year. Condon said this week that waiting until he and the new council is sworn in is what the council should do.

(Keep reading if you want to read the letter from Condon.)

Council President and Current Members of Council:

We urge the current City Council to not adopt a new contract for Local 270 but to wait so the newly elected members of the Council and the new Mayor can have a voice in the decision.

It runs against the long American tradition of political fairness to have a lame duck Mayor and lame duck Council adopt a multi-million dollar contract effecting a thousand employees when there is less than a month left to their terms. The 4-year contract would limit the options of the new Administration and Council at a time when flexibility is needed.

Our City has a structural deficit that cannot be papered over. The Mayor and Council will need to look at every option to bring the City to a sustainable, balanced budget. Other cities have gone bankrupt and we cannot let that happen to us. 

We believe in collective bargaining and believe that the union should have a say in the decisions that will be needed moving forward. Rigid work rules can lead to lay-offs as managers are deprived of the flexibility needed to reduce costs. Locking in work rules and benefit packages deprives both the workers and Administration of a forum for discussing and resolving new challenges and opportunities.

No contract can create money out of thin air. Our goal is to provide superb city services from employees who are paid good salaries, fair benefits and have good working conditions. No piece of paper will eliminate the need for creativity, flexibility, and innovation in the years ahead.

Can it really be possible that a contract that is good for union members and the taxpayers cannot wait three weeks and withstand the scrutiny of a new Council and new Mayor?

This last minute, rushed, and unnecessary contract short-circuits the process needed in the months ahead and short-changes both the Administration and the employees of our City. 


David Condon – City of Spokane Mayor-Elect
Nancy McLaughlin – Spokane City Council, District 3, Position 2 
Steve Salvatori – Spokane City Council Elect, District 3, Position 1
Michael Fagan – Spokane City Council-Elect, District 1, Position 1
Michael Allen – Spokane City Council-Elect, District 2, Position 1

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Jonathan Brunt
Jonathan Brunt joined The Spokesman-Review in 2004. He is the government editor. He previously was a reporter who covered Spokane City Hall, Spokane County government and public safety.

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